The Dark Side of the Loom - first version

For the love of fuck, does Kirsty Allsop ever shut up? I ask because, like a foghorn from the darkness, she insists upon blarting her withered opinions across our cultural ocean with the regularity of an IBS sufferer who’s eaten a deep fried Mars Bar. And this time she has gone too far. No, not because she has resurrected her argument that that women find housework therapeutic or because she today announced that women should eschew university for childbearing. It’s because I’m a sewist for a living and, as the self-styled figurehead for the crafting masses, Allsop is making my career look like Martha Stewart’s stool water.

Let me explain. I’m about to open my online shop Kraken Kreations where I’ll sell my outrageously bright and wild geo-print accessories for the home. I’ve turned my sewing hobby into my sewing career in a one-woman campaign to bring an end to the ubiquitous and terminally offensive ditzy print. Believe me, if I wanted to surround myself with dainty flowers I’d find a flux capacitor and go live with Enid Blyton. The problem is that for me, and thousands of other women who make a living from a needle and thread, Kirsty Allsop has somehow finagled herself into the role of Chief Crafter and every time she announces that women should stay at home she’s tarring us with a brush formed from her patriarchal bristles. In one breath she’s telling the nation’s women to ditch degrees for dummies and in the next she’s giving crafting lectures to those of us who want to turn their hobbies into careers. Thanks to this dual role of hers, the distinction between the two groups is terrifyingly thin and every time Allsop claims to represent us women who have the vision to create businesses from hobbies it gets even thinner.

Look at it this way: I call myself a sewist because it’s about the only term I can think of that represents my new career without burdening it with the expectations that usually arise when I tell people I sew. The terms sewer and seamstress are laden with the presumptions that I can’t find a better job or that I embroider doilies like a Bonte heroine while sitting daintily by my casement. All of these also come with domestic baggage that once forced Germaine Greer to proclaim, “Women have frittered their lives away stitching things for which there is no demand”, completing the image of women sewing because we have nothing better to do. Worse, women like me are often labelled mumpreneurs (why are male businessmen never dadpreneurs?), reinforcing this image and reducing us women who sew for a living to frittering mummies rather than independent and intelligent beings who have a vision, a work ethic and a business plan.

And just as women are starting to prove that their needle and thread is the key to their independence, success, ambition, skill and economic worth along comes Allsop, their self-appointed Chief, to tell the world that women are better off in the home. Well, thanks a fucking bunch. Just as I face down the condescending mumpreneur label and show the world that I am a feminist who sews ballsy and grown-up items for modern and progressive humans, Allsop erects yet another barrier to me being taken seriously by announcing that, as a woman, my priority should be my uterine outpourings.

Listen, if women who sew don’t want to be patronised, ghettoised, ignored and laughed at, there needs to be an uprising where Allsop is ousted from her media friendly throne as the crafting rent-a-gob. We need to tell her that in return for our support, ticket money and book buying we expect her to not treat us like domestic drudges who await our husbands with hot dinners and moist gussets. The crafting movement she is attempting to hog is a modern movement, yes with its roots in necessity and domesticity but with its future firmly in business and the economy. Thousands of women are using their sewing to reclaim their social and financial independence. We don’t need Allsop to take it off us.

Which is why, when Allsop claims she is a feminist, she is not just lying, she is luring women into believing that their place really is in the home. It’s not, no more than a man’s place is in the home. We may sew at our kitchen tables until we can afford our own offices, studios and warehouses or until we make a decent profit margin but that doesn’t mean we belong at those tables. Allsop can be the nation’s housewife or she can be the crafter’s voice. She can’t be both, not while she insists on lifting the former to bury the latter. If she wants to prove to the world how delightfully and traditionally wifely she can be she’s welcome to it but I’ll be fucked if she is doing it in the name of my gender or my career. This time Allsop really has started to lose the thread.

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3 Responses to Needled

  1. Elizabeth Cameron says:

    Hear, hear!! I thoroughly agree, that blasted woman needs to be muzzled. Besides all that you’ve mentioned, she also chooses stupid easy wee things to do, I suppose so that we’ll all appreciate how creative she is, but it all makes my hair stand on end!

  2. Can'tThinkOfAn Avatar says:

    The irony of it all being that she started her own property buying business at 25 years old, which was a decade before she had children!

    It is her time as an independent businesswoman in the property market that 1. established her in the public eye, and 2. has given her the financial security to pursue her crafts as a hobby full-time.

    She owes everything to her property business, which she set up before having children.

    Also, her kids are only 8 and 6 which many (including herself, it would seem!) would argue is too young for mummy to be working full-time on her TV shows, exhibitions and books (not me, I hasten to add – I was full-time at the childminder’s at 6 weeks old so my mum could go back to work).

    This new line of advice, that women should have babies before a career and devote themselves utterly to children and husband, is inarguably hypocritical.

    Also, her cousin is Cath Kidson, an exceptionally successful entrepreneur who has made her crafts into a multi-million pound business, and who isn’t married and doesn’t have any biological children (her long-term partner has a daughter though).

    It makes me so angry when a female public figure uses her public stage to tell women to not do exactly as she has done, preventing them from achieving what she has achieved (Sarah Palin, I’m looking at you).

  3. PennyDog says:

    Oh I am so glad to read this and know it’s not just me. I sew too, but I write about it which is where I get my money from. Admittedly it’s not a full time wage (I have a FT job too) but it has paid for my wedding.

    I don’t understand how she is considered a crafts expert now, just because she had a TV show where people showed her how to do things (and often did them for her and she then went on to win prizes in shows, how deflating is that for people who have been entering shows for years?!) and when ever she tried something new, she ended up bawling and throwing a tantrum. “I caaaannnn’t doooo iiiiiitttt!” That’s hardly honing your craft and learning from mistakes…

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